Work on finalising contract continues
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton T.D. today (Thursday the 16th July) updated Government on the progress made towards finalising the contract for the National Broadband Plan.
The National Broadband Plan will ensure that every home, farm, school and business in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband – no matter where they are located. As a result of the Plan, the 1.1 million people living and working in 540,000 premises across the country including 100,000 businesses and farms, and over 600 schools, who currently cannot access broadband, will have access to a high speed broadband service.
Those 1.1 million people predominantly living in rural areas will have the same opportunities as urban Ireland and will be able to avail of the range of new opportunities that high speed broadband has and will deliver. Without it, they won't have guaranteed access to these opportunities. It opens up:
- Flexible and remote working
- Smart health with online GP and nursing services and medical monitoring
- Cloud based services and connected devices
- Smart farming opportunities
- Digital learning
- Reliable electronic payments and bookings
Government today noted the significant progress made by the Department and the Preferred Bidder, National Broadband Ireland in finalising the necessary legal and financial documents, since Government approved the appointment of Preferred Bidder on the 7th of May.
Following on from eir’s appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the 28th of June, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, in consultation with its advisors and with ComReg, have concluded that the high level proposal put forward by the company is not a feasible alternative and has no impact on the decision to appoint a preferred bidder to the Plan.
The objectives of the NBP Strategy approved by Government in December 2015 and signed up to by bidders through the participation in the procurement process, are as follows:
- High speed broadband should be provided to 100% of premises in the country
- There needs to be strong protections for the State with full transparency of where the State subsidy is being directed
- There needs to be equal access for all commercial retail providers to the network
- A future proofed network so that in the future a digital divide between urban and rural areas does not re-emerge; and
- Prices should be affordable for users – both for connections and products.
These, along with the application of value for money principles, have underpinned the procurement process since December 2015.
Eir was one of the final bidders to the National Broadband Plan and under these terms, made a draft bid of €2.75billion (EX VAT) before making the decision to withdraw from the process. The evidence presented by eir both in the Committee and in their subsequent letter to the Department does not meet the above objectives and contains material which has already been raised and dismissed during eir’s participation in the procurement process.
In a response sent to eir today, it was outlined that the provision of a State subsidy to any company without competition is not legal under procurement and State Aid rules, nor would it meet the key objectives of the National Broadband Plan.
Government today noted this assessment.
Minister Bruton said,
“Work is progressing on finalising the contract for the National Broadband Plan. It is crucial that we move to sign the contract so that the one million people who today are without access are not left behind. Digital technology is transforming how we live, learn and work. We must make sure the people of rural Ireland have the same opportunities as those in our towns and cities.”
Following confirmation of State Aid approval by the European Commission and completion of contract closing requirements, the Preferred Bidder will be awarded the contract for the National Broadband Plan.
It is expected that the NBP Contract will be signed later this year when all of the legal and financial documentation are finalised with roll out commencing shortly thereafter.